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New Brunswick sends message to NDP's right-wing populism

Chris Rogers

October 3, 2014

Due to a computer glitch with the automated voting machines used in the New Brunswick election it was a long time getting the final results. That’s what you get for depending on a private company to count your ballots for you.
When the results did finally come in the Liberals had won a majority with 27 seats, conservatives 21 and the green party 1. One of the seemingly surprising things about the election is that the NDP was not able to make a breakthrough and win any seats in the legislature even though they had their highest percentage of the vote ever with 13 per cent. The Green Party was able to make a breakthrough with only 6 per cent of the vote.
The main reason that the NDP was yet again unable to make a breakthrough is that under the leadership of Dominic Cardy the party moved to the right—a tactic that has failed in other provinces, such as Ontario and BC.
Fracking and tar sands
The biggest issue of the election was if the government would allow fracking for natural gas. I was this issue that allowed the Liberals to carry the election, as most people in the province oppose fracking. The Liberals saying they would impose a moratorium on fracking, “until the science proved it was safe.” The problem was that the NDP held essentially the same position. They could not even hold that position as the campaign went on, to the point where people where not sure where the NDP stood on the issue by the time election day arrived.
Another important environmental issue that the NDP failed on is the Energy East pipeline. This is a pipeline that will bring hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day from the tar sands to the Irving oil refinery in Saint John. The NDP unquestioningly supported this pipeline that will bring dirty tar sands oil to New Brunswick. Although it is supported by all the parties, except the Green Party. There was not a word about renewable energy sources in the NDP’s program.
Reproductive justice
Another issue that the NDP let the Liberals take their left flank was the issue of abortion. Although the NDP said that they would rescind the policy that requires two doctors to certify that an abortion was medically necessary, that is all they said was needed to give access to abortion.
The Liberals on the other hand said that they would study all barriers to access and make sure all women in New Brunswick had access to abortion services. Not that the Liberals should be trusted to carry through with this promise without continued pressure with them. Also the Liberals are not promising to fund private abortion clinics, or expanding where they will be available, which is currently only at two hospitals in the province, making it difficult to physically access the service.
Right-wing populism fails again
Economically the NDP promoted a right wing populist program. Cardy would emphasize that all his promises were based on the need to balance the books. He also called for the eliminating taxes for small businesses. Cardy also spent a lot of time talking to business groups, while the only time he associated with labour during the campaign was when he campaigned at a labour day picnic.
Another thing that Cardy did that drew the party to the right was to bring in people from other parties. The first high profile candidate was Kelly Lamrock who was education minister under the former Liberal government, not to mention the main person involved in the sellout of the New Brunswick student movement in the mid 1990s. Other high profile candidates were Tories Bev Harrison and Charles Doucet. Both of whom said that they had switched because the NDP under Cardy fit in with their beliefs.
The good news is that Dominic Cardy has resigned as leader of the party. Activists in the party hope this provides the opportunity take back the party from the right wing. The problem is that right now the most likely candidate for the next leader is Kelly Lamrock. He would continue the right wing shift of the party.
Regardless of who won the election it will be the social movements and labour in New Brunswick who will be the ones who bring about change on the streets, not a bunch of talking heads in the legislature.

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